Polyethyleneimines find many applications in products such as detergents, adhesives, cosmetics, and for processes such as tissue culture, gene therapy, and CO2 capture. The current state-of-the-art technology for the production of the branched polyethyleneimines involves aziridine feedstock which is a highly toxic, volatile and mutagenic chemical and raises significant concern to human health and environment. We report here a novel method for the synthesis of branched polyethyleneimines from ethylene glycol and ethylenediamine feedstock which are much safer, environmentally benign, commercially available and potentially renewable feedstock. The polymerisation reaction is catalysed by a complex of an earth-abundant metal, manganese and liberates H2O as the only by-product. Our mechanistic studies using DFT computation suggests that the reaction proceeds by the formation and subsequent hydrogenation of imine intermediates.
The Supporting Information file contains details of the synthesis and characterisation of polyethyleneimines as well as DFT computation.